Allan Harris Live Music Review
The Allan Harris Band at Riceland Hall on February 15, 2013.
I was privileged to attend a jazz workshop led by the band's rhythm section, Pascal Le Boeuf on piano, Leon Boykins on bass, and Jake Goldbasi on drums held in the ASU Bandroom the morning of the show so I had some idea of the level of musicianship in this fine band. In the workshop they covered fundamentals like listening and communication both visual and aural starting with the relationship between the bass and the ride cymbal defining the beat. They also emphasized solo growth and simplicity focusing on the importance of the rests in any solo. They played well and they were able to explain why they were able to play well.
When the show started it was the rhythm section and Jessie Jones Jr. on alto saxophone getting the groove going. Then Allan Harris came out, played electric guitar and sang. He is an extremely talented jazz vocalist with smooth delivery on well known standards.
Videos and more below the fold.
After a couple of songs he put his guitar up and said he was going to sing an Eddie Jefferson song. He launched into "Moody's Mood For Love", a bebop vocalese written by Eddie Jefferson and James Moody. He definitely showed his skills with his delivery of the lyric and by scatting through the chorus at the end. I particulary love the vocalese style so this was one of the highlights of the show for me.
There is a very interesting story about this song told by James Moody here.
Harris then worked his way through a number of jazz standards including "Fly Me To The Moon", "L-O-V-E", "My Funny Valentine", "Softly As A Morning Sunrise", and "On The Street Where You Live". After he sang through "Softly" he left the stage giving it to the band and they did not dissapoint. Jessie Jones Jr. got hot on his alto and then they passed the solos around giving each band member a chance to shine. Allan Harris returned to the stage to finish the song. The instrumental break on this song was another highlight of the show for me, after meeting the musicians in the rhythm section I was looking forward to hearing what they could do on stage.
They closed the set with "Hold You" a very smooth soul song written by Allan Harris.
After the intermission Allan Harris came out on the stage alone and played "Blackbird". He joked about how he just wrote that song last week. The band came on and backed him up on another pop song on acoustic. Then he launched into songs from his musical, "Cross That River".
Here is the description of "Cross That River" from the Allan Harris website.
"Cross That River is about finding freedom. Although there was little documented history, countless slaves found their way out to the Wild West, where Black Cowboys once roamed the prairies, fought against Native Americans, and helped drive cattle up the cattle trails. The reality is that 40% of all the cowboys on those cattle trails in the 1800s were men of color."
Harris played acoustic guitar on these songs which he had referred to as country music. This isn't exactly right unless you are used to country music with jazz flute and percussion played on a cajon.
According to wikipedia "A cajón is a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, played by slapping the front face (generally thin plywood) with the hands."
Cajon's are very popular at campgrounds because they are a drum and a stool you sit on at the same time.
Jake Goldbasi provided thematic material with the Cajon portraying the galloping of horses and other cowboy sound effects. At one point he had an extended solo and in the middle he left the Cajon altogether and was just slapping on his legs.
In writing this musical Allan Harris has brought to life a forgotten part of American history. Here is a video of Harris singing "Cross That River", the opening song in the musical.
This extremely powerful lyric shows the truth behind this history as only great art can.
After the songs from his musical Harris played another song he wrote, "Black Coffee Blues". This was done Delta style with slide guitar.
For an encore he did "The Very Thought Of You" featuring Jessie Jones Jr. on an extremely fine sax solo. I was enjoying the show with a great tenor sax man, Joe Lee, and I leaned over and told him, "That guy has tone as good as yours".
After the show Jessie Jones Jr. spent some time talking to Joe Lee and he gave him one of his CDs. Pascal, Jake, and Leon spent some more time with the jazz students they met at the workshop and Allan Harris remained out front talking to his fans until they finally locked up. These are not just fine musicians, they are good people who understand their job.
They tour all over the world and we were lucky to get them in Jonesboro, Arkansas. If you get a chance to see the Allan Harris Band don't miss it. They put on a great show and you will be glad you went.